Junk Science Blogs: 4 Signs You May Be Unknowingly Following One

Junk Science_Non Sequitur of 2 and 1_The Health Sciences Academy

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.

The internet is growing uncontrollably. Ultra-fast information transfer is happening across this world via a network of communication satellites.

Nearly everything has changed with the onset of internet, and over the past years we’ve seen vast improvements in technology, communication and virtual entertainment. All thanks to the internet.

The internet has also been pivotal in introducing improvements for education purposes; one can access online courses, supplemental information for a subject of their choice, and expert health and nutrition advice. The internet has opened up a substantial amount of knowledge to a wide audience around the globe.

But it can also be a minefield

The era of information failure

Einstein said: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.”

Information failure can happen when the participants don’t have perfect knowledge, or when one set of participants know more than the others causing information asymmetry.

An information failure is often detrimental; causing confusion and uncertainty. It can affect a lot of subject areas, particularly health and nutrition.

According to recent reports:

  • 80% of the population from developed countries (like the UK, the US, Germany, Australia, Japan, Canada, France, etc.) use the internet.
  • 70% to 80% of us use the internet to search for health information online (Tonksaker, 2014 , HINTS, Pew Internet and the European Commission).

These are really staggering stats.

But they come at a high price: we now have an increased risk of damage caused by information failure. For all we know, there could be millions of bloggers spreading wrong advice about health and nutrition… putting their followers’ health at risk.

The harm of misinformation

With so many self-declared “evidence-based” websites floating around, what (and who) should you believe – or not?

How do you know you are reading quality-verified information? Who can you trust for accurate data suited to your needs? Who filters the junk from the science?

These are a few questions you should be asking yourself constantly.

I personally have a very rigorous vetting process and spend a lot of time and resources to access, validate, and distil top-quality material.

The first step in this process is to identify whether I’m reading bad science or not. And I would like to share with you some of the red-flags I normally watch out for.

Here is a list of four common slip-ups made by health blogs, even when they proclaim to be “science-based”:

1. They oversimplify information.

Our world is full of big and unstructured data.

However, bigger doesn’t always mean better. The value of data is determined by the quality of its analysis.

While simplification of the conclusion is necessary to target a wider audience, a balance must be maintained so as not to distort it.

Here’s one simple example of causal oversimplification:

“When the team won the last game, the coach said his team had pizza before the game… surely the team won because of the pizza they had, therefore one must have pizza before the game to win the game”.

Can you see the weird logic?

Two unrelated topics have been linked and used as evidence to back up a made-up conclusion.

Many health bloggers intentionally link unrelated data to mislead their audience, giving them a false sense of satisfaction.

Example of a non-sequitur (by niyamaklogic)

Now, have a look at the image to the left.

Two is a number. One is a number. Therefore, two equals one.

Quite convincing, isn’t it?

That’s the oversimplification formula that many health bloggers and journalists use…

It’s called “non-sequitur”. A kind of fabricated logic you should always watch out for!

Let me give you another example.

In news, the Daily Mail claimed that “Eating fruit could make you MORE hungry because the sugar in it triggers cravings”.

But the cited study didn’t involve fruits at all. Then how did the journalist conclude that?

Easy. By using the oversimplification formula! Somewhere along the following:

  • A fructose drink increased cravings (study).
  • Fruits contain fructose (common knowledge).
  • Therefore, fruits increase cravings (Daily Mail).

Can this be used as evidence that eating fruit makes you hungrier? No.

This information has been pulled out of context.

And context matters! In this case, drinking fructose is very different from eating whole fruits, where the fibre slows down the release of fructose into the bloodstream. Fruits also have a high water content and take longer to digest, so fructose is not instantly absorbed.

Now that you are aware of the “causal oversimplification” tactic, see if you can spot it in the blogs you follow (and please let us know when you do!).

2. They “spin” the findings.

Most health blogs miss out on the critical findings of a study.

Image source: shirtofun.com

How?

They opportunistically cherry-pick a few words from a study abstract to support an argument, without ever reading the full study.

Recycling words from a study abstract and using that as “evidence” carries several problems.

Particularly the problem of “spinning”.

It’s been reported that 41% of clinical-study abstracts are distorted by the scientists themselves with an attractive “spin” to make the key findings news-worthy.

What happens then?

These “spinned” abstracts are spread by health bloggers and journalists who, in general, don’t bother to read the original full study.

For this reason, I never “buy into” an abstract. Unless I read, absorb, and understand the full scientific paper back to back, I won’t put it forward or even show it to you.

The point is that you must be vigilant about the way some health websites are trying to convince you, often by randomly plastering links to PubMed abstracts on a page in order to create an illusion of “evidence”, without fully understanding:

  • the study type,
  • the research methods,
  • the context in which it was carried out,
  • why it might contradict previous findings, and
  • whether it was a one-hit-wonder with irreproducible results.

This shows how anyone can be misled by bloggers who skip crucial information and pick isolated conclusions from the scientific literature, concealing the full picture.

Sadly, health myths are born this way many of which we debunk in our Science Reports!

3. They disseminate junk science.

Vetting a study for scientific integrity before citing it is crucial. Why?

Because sometimes science can be falsified by the medics and scientists themselves.

I know, that’s a shocker.

It is very important to find out if the results can be reproduced, if it was published in a peer-reviewed journal, and how many test subjects were used.

Image source: briandeer.com

Notably, a 1998 study by surgeon Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues is believed to be responsible for the modern anti-vaccine movement.

They observed that 8 of the 12 children developed their first symptoms of autism shortly after they received the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.

This correlation was weak and although other scientists denounced this claim, several media outlets issued dramatic headlines linking MMR to autism.

Numerous follow-up studies failed to replicate this study and couldn’t find evidence linking vaccines to autism.

Furthermore, in 2004, journalist Brian Deer in his report revealed that Wakefield had been hired by a lawyer to find evidence against the vaccine to support a lawsuit and had falsified the data in the 1998 study.

This study was retracted in 2010 and Wakefield was stripped off his medical licenses.

Despite the scandal, some bloggers keep citing the retracted study!

More recently, a German journalist fabricated a scientific study to prove how easy it is to fool the media with junk science.

He used the alias ‘Johannes Bohannon’, but his name is John. He recruited real subjects, performed a real experiment, and published his findings in a real scientific journal called the International Archives of Medicine, which used to be run by BioMedCentral.

But the truth is that he somewhat “manipulated” the study data to make us believe that eating chocolate daily accelerates weight loss.

The result?

Image source: Daily Express

Image source: Daily Express

Shape Magazine, the Daily MailDaily Express, Daily Star, many other media outlets and health blogs released the “magical” news: get slimmer with chocolate!

In his fascinating article, John reveals how he duped millions with his fake chocolate findings.

So, how do you know if the data in a study has been manipulated or not?

Well, that’s why we are here: the team and I vet studies for scientific integrity and ensure that everything we teach you in our Science Reports and in our courses is based on a proper interpretation of the science.

4. They create a psychological nocebo effect.

Several health websites exert the power of the ‘nocebo effect’ upon their readers’ minds.

In a prank gone horribly wrong, a group of medical students picked on a much-disliked assistant and caught him unaware. They blindfolded him and bowed his head onto the chopping block; they announced that they would decapitate him, and dropped a wet cloth on his neck. Convinced that it was a steel blade, the man died on the spot.

This example has been cited in Dr Benson’s work in 1997 and just goes on to show our brain power and how dangerous these beliefs can be.

Image source: davidmallenmd.blogspot.co.uk

Many health sites, most notably Food Babe and Mercola, terrorise their readers with pretty scary headlines and give out selective information about a study, or don’t talk about the biological evidence.

This increases the scientific gap and can lead to the creation of dangerous beliefs in your head.

Believing that a certain food will harm you can be as powerful (if not more) than the negative effects of the food itself. We explain how this can happen in our Science Report Gluten: A psychological nocebo?

Sometimes you may be better off by NOT allowing this kind of information to play with your mind, even if subconsciously.

Conclusion

So many health bloggers underestimate their readers’ intelligence.

H.L. Mencken, a journalist and a scholar of American English, stated:

“No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby”.

Looking at today’s ‘blogsphere’, Mencken’s opinion might be more relevant than ever!

Although knowledge can empower us, I’m worried about the quality and quantity of information out there, how people use it, and how it can affect them.

More harm can be done by accessing false or misrepresented information, and using such information to make a decision.

Online stories are pulled out of context, sensationalised, or fabricated… just to get your attention.

You must be critical of popular blogs, particularly when you identify any of the red-flags we discussed:

  • Are they using the oversimplification formula to fabricate a false logic?
  • Could what you read be a complete misinterpretation of the scientific literature?
  • Are they using junk studies, or taking partial information from abstracts, without reading and validating the full study?
  • Are they applying scare-tactics and planting an unnecessary nocebo effect in your mind?

If you spotted any of the above in the blogs that you follow, please tell us in the comments below the general public has the right to know!

And if you know someone who might benefit from these tips, feel free to share (they’ll thank you for it).

 

 

The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right
Alex Ruani leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where she and her team make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for students. She is a Harvard-trained scientific researcher who specialises in cravings and appetite neurobiology, nutrition biochemistry, and nutrigenomics. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition science, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free Science Catch-ups every other Thursday.
Connect with Alex via email.


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64 Comments

  • Joolia Cappleman

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    I am a regular reader of Dr. Mercola. I saw the chocolate article but didnt pay much attention. How do we get the Daily Mail to act more responsibly?

  • Sophia

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    another good article Alex. I like to read more about the science rather than getting caught in what the so-called ‘glossy experts’ say. Glossy experts is the term I refer to people who may be of great influence, and may have lost weight or followed a plan and share it with the public, not fully understanding the science. You so right about how sometimes people don’t get the full picture. You get people saying that they should not eat ‘carbs’, they may not realise that they need it to function for example if they are doing strenuous exercise. I remember having a discussion about someone who worked at a qym and they had some customers fainting as they tried to eliminate or carbs from their diet.

    • Elizabeth

      Reply Reply July 2, 2015

      The problem with gym-based low carb diets is that they should also be eating veg. A ketogenic diet is used officially with epilepsy, normally children, and there’s been research suggesting positive for brain injury patients also. But it needs to be done properly. As for non-low carb diets of a similar nature you get carbs from fruit and veg! But I’m always a little suspicious about non-medical uses of ketosis, esp in a gym setting. As for the example above, I suspect that the person knew nothing about low carb diets, the need for good fats, and to watch for low blood pressure, and so fainted as a result

  • Marnie Reader

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    As usual a fascinating article !.. I look forward to the articles from science academy !.. There is a lot of made up information out there in the media to confuse the public and to promote certain products and lifestyle !
    Science academy thanks once again for your sensible approach to health !

  • Eli

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    I LOVE IT. FINALLY THIS ARTICLE GIVE ME AN ANSWERS I WAS LOOKING FOR, FOR QUITE SOME TIME. I’M EVEN THINKING OF STARTING A CITIZEN GROUP WITH ONLY ONE GOAL, THAT IS TO OPEN PEOPLE’S MIND ABOUT THIS VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE: ‘GETTING THE FACTS RIGHT”

  • Life Diet Health

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    What a fantastic article! :) Is it permissible for me to reblog parts of this (www.LifeDietHealth.wordpress.com) one point at a time? I love the 1 = a number, 2 = a number, therefore 2=1 analogy :) Oh, and I’m one of those who was previously duped by the MMR and autism theory! All of these points definitely need communicating to as many people as possible! Thank you!

  • Shona

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Very informative – thank you very much!!
    Just one comment though – I’m curious – your article says “our…is based on proven research”
    As far as I am aware – you can’t say “proven research” because all science is a testing of theories and hypotheses – you can only say evidence “suggests…”

    Would you agree?

    • Hi Shona – Nice to hear! Proven research, theories and hypotheses are 3 very different things. Proven research is, for example, when the reproducibility of the study results is tested (and high), or when there’s scientific consensus, or when the research is well-established, amongst many other factors. You can see how we make sense of the scientific literature in our Science Reports Premium: https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/science-reports-premium-subscription It’s fun!

      • Shona

        Reply Reply July 2, 2015

        Hi Maria
        Thanks for your reply :-)
        I understand the difference between research, theory and hypothesis testing.
        Perhaps I am looking at it more philosophically – technically speaking only mathematics can be proven in a theoretical world. Because theoretical testing is usually in a laboratory or some other ‘unreal’ world scenario, not all theory, even though perhaps supported by large weight of evidence, may not always translate perfectly into the real world for all real world situations.
        Hope that makes sense. :-)

        • Shona, haha yes, “philosophy of scientific knowledge” is a fun subject matter, particularly for logicians. Biological research on the other hand has its own set of rules and methods to ensure consistency, and that’s our main focus as you know. Thanks for commenting, nice to have you around :-)

  • Sam Metson

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Wherever large financial interests are involved, then truth takes a back seat. This applies to banks, politics, government, pharmaceutical companies, medicine, agriculture, the food industry, research organisations, sport and even charity and aid organisations. We really can’t know for certain where the truth lies, unless you hear from credible whistle blowers who can document their evidence. In our area of interest books such as Drug Muggers and Pharmagheddon give us some expert insights into horrendous practices on a massive scale. In my mind statins serve a financial purpose not a health one and the story about cholesterol is distorted to fit the case. The way general medicine is taught and structured is aimed at treating symptoms of chronic disease and not looking for a cure by addressing the underlying causes.

    We are programmed to survive as individuals rather than as communities, when it comes to the bottom line. This behaviour extends into the way we conduct our business in many situations. Civilization is a thin veneer that covers over some pretty nasty instincts. It is sad to see how quickly we can adapt basic tribal behaviours and set about killing each other so readily when roused in a particular way. I hope that is not too depressing for you to read. All we can do is moderate our individual behaviour.

  • Alex Salcedo

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Good article. It is true, the internet is full of this false or many times half true half lie stories. For example the validity of supplements and later another one indicating that supplements create cancer, or coffee is good and a week later coffee is very bad, and so on. Unfortunately, not always is possible to track the original source or its time consuming, specially if is not part of your job to do that. Many times when there is a scientific article, you have to pay per article and is not always cheap or affordable unless you are a member of a faculty or full-time graduate student. Anyway, I will let you know when I find some kind of bad/junk science.

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 2, 2015

      Alex – indeed, distilling good from bad information is incredibly time consuming and a full time job on its own; a job that I personally love :-)

      • rejoice

        Reply Reply October 1, 2016

        Thank you so much for the information I learnt a lot…

  • Nurten

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Great article, Alex. It is scary how true is all you wrote about “junk science”. It takes a lot more time, energy and judgement to sip through, analyze and decide what is valid information. It is so unfortunate though that so many people fall victims to it, even highly educated professionals. When money is the most powerful tool in pretty much anything and everything, it manipulates the “science” so often making it so much harder for majority of the people to discern the real science from the junk.

  • Bruce Stewart

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    I’ve been involved in engineering for many years so I must watch out for this kind of science. The SELECT study was a study on Vitamin E and selenium and cancer however on the first blood test at the beginning of the study they measured several blood parameters including omega 3’s. This was the only measure of plasma omega 3’s. At the end of the study the researchers noticed a correlation between that one test and prostate cancer levels and concluded that omega 3’s were a cancer risk factor. Absurd. Your omega 3 level on one day in your life cannot tell you anything about your health. This wasn’t blog but a research study with a spin to make news or worse.

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 2, 2015

      Bruce – thanks for sharing, that’s a great example of spinning/information failure :-)

  • anne keyth

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Eye-opening, Alex. Enjoyed this so much.

    I’m adding a new term to my vocabulary… NON-SEQUITUR!

    I stopped following Mercola a long time ago, they use non-sequiturs a lot, like in the microwave scare and the Russian ban. Really? The conclusion is spot on, no one has lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the masses. I think Mercola makes a lot of money with his flashy ads all over the site which makes it even more suspicious.

    Food Babe over-promotes her book but she has no training in human metabolism, toxicology, or environmental science. I lost faith when she said “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.” Water is a chemical. Vitamin A is a chemical.

    I also believe it is very dangerous to install nocebos in people’s minds as you say. It makes you very paranoid.

    The internet is a minefield, thank you for this education!!

    • Daniel Wong

      Reply Reply July 2, 2015

      I agree with you anne, foodbabe could use the toxicology/detox course I’m doing with the health sciences academy, it’s brill. I also lost faith in authority nutrition, the chap uses #2 spinning. he bases most stuff on abstracts partially cherry picking to make a point and sometimes when you open the link it has nothing to do with the claim he makes… The ads on blogs are too distracting I prefer clean reading. Since understanding these tactics I will pay more attention going forward, txs 4 the wakeup call!!

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 2, 2015

      Anne – love to hear you enjoyed it. We use the term “non-sequitur” a lot around here :-)

  • Emma

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    A really great article – many thanks!

  • Angel

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Thank you for the information, quite enlightening.

  • Chinmay

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Really informative. I like the way you’ve explained things in a clear and logical fashion! Enjoyed reading this! Thanks :)

  • Janet Cousins

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Thanks Alex – A good article and certainly makes you think. I was about to have my daughter vaccinated with the MMR vaccine when the news broke about the dangers and “links” to autism. However, I had measles as a child and was lucky it caused no lasting damage, but I know of others who were badly affected by it. Also, the dangers to an unborn child if the mother catches rubella are also significant, and so for me it was a no-brainer. There were plenty of other mums who decided not to vaccinate though and I wonder if the retraction of Wakefield’s “findings” was publicised sufficiently well for mums to change their minds

  • Olga

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    I think, this article is very important in terms to attract public attention to tto the quality of media materials because it might be as powerfull as misleading. Thank you, Alex, for raising these issues.

  • Ellen

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Enjoyed the article as always. The responses were interesting as well. If we understand the idea of blogging, which is no more than giving our opinion about certain things to the public or readers, it will help because testing is a total different subject. It involves groups of people, specific requirements, age, sex, even demographics and more. Also, we must understand that the quantity of participants and the time frame the study was conducted will give us evidence of its findings. Yes, it would be so great if most bloggers would take this in consideration and for instants post the correct data, however, we the readers should research the info mentioned. Now, that’s being said, you may find studies that show all of the details, but they are financed by companies to show a specific outcome. Just to give you something to think, does anybody believes that the FDA would change the food pyramid showing that animal products are negative for your system- increase the risk of cancer, increase inflammation, increase resistance for certain antibiotics, etc? That would mean that anybody on the panel that also is involved with the beef industry, chicken industry and so on, would be in a trick. But it’s us, the reader’s responsibility to find out who is involved in a study, who did the actual research, and how can the outcome help us to make better decisions on our food intake.

  • Lotte

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    I’m new in this forum and so far have enjoyed reading the free articles which are clear and to the point. Thank you.

  • Janis E. McKinstry

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    I agree with you that we must make sure that our sources are reliable and that we are citing and teaching factual material and I believe that we must keep an open mind to new and alternative findings. I’ve come to distrust the CDC and FDA here in the USA because they are so tightly enmeshed with big business having embraced profit over the health and well being of the people. It’s easy to not report findings or to manipulate them in favor of a desired outcome, especially when money is involved. I appreciate alternative voices as well as mainstream voices and remain curious with all. The vaccine debate is an important one and should be examined from all angles possible. Someone with a family history of autoimmune or immune compromise, genetic defects such as a MFTHR defect would be at risk with the toxicity of vaccines. SB277 here in California has now eliminated parental rights to deny vaccination and only leaves medical excuses to avoid them, and I’ve never had a doctor suggest a genetic test on my babies so how would one know if they would have a tragic consequence? So, yes, check references and sources of information and be very curious and open minded to all sources. Science is a field of learning and we must continue learning without thinking we already know it all just because a governing body says so.

    http://www.newsweek.com/2015/02/20/andrew-wakefield-father-anti-vaccine-movement-sticks-his-story-305836.html

  • Rory T.

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article! Everything is well explained. Big applause Alex and The Health Sciences Academy for educating the public on the risks of information-failure. If consumer choices are affected by wrong information, putting their health at risk, then we ought to do something about it!

    Mercola is in QuackWatch, he got FDA warnings about his wrongful claims http://www.quackwatch.com/11Ind/mercola.html This commentary about the Food Babe movement shows that her choice of words is quite poor http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/02/the-food-babe-enemy-of-chemicals/385301/

    A novice follower who doesn’t know better may make the wrong health choices because of what they hear from these glorified internet celebs and endanger their health. That’s dangerous and what needs to stop in my opinion. With the right education it is possible. Thanks a lot!

  • Sarah

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Another fascinating read, the 2=1 analogy is genius, thank you Alex! I am so excited I never enjoyed learning this much..love it

  • Elizabeth

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    The big problem I find is accessing full articles due to the price.

    I’ve found mercola too scaremongering to bother reading for ages. Often too busy promoting their own products anyhow on their emails etc.

  • This is why I’m so sceptical about subscribing to blogs. You can never trust 100% that what you read is accurate and unbiased unless you’ve done the research for yourself, which (as you know) is very time consuming! If everyone followed these tips, we’d all be better off. Thanks for another great article.

  • Eli

    Reply Reply July 3, 2015

    Hi again,
    I want to ask one question about “Brown sugar”, an issue which has bothered me for some times. I was researching on the net about the benefits of brown sugar. Some doctors claim that brown sugar is not much different than the white sugar, because the nutritional value of the amount of the molasses is almost insignificant. What is your opinion on this issue, and is it significant if the brown sugar is organic or not.It is still 95% sucrose.

    • Hi Eli – as you do your research on brown sugar, you’ll want to consider the concept of “inter-individual variability” (i.e. genetics/tolerance, personal biochemistry, current diet, health status, nutrient deficiencies, etc.), reason why general findings aren’t always applicable. Similarly, you’ll want to look at the source of the product you’re researching, e.g. soil quality, soil contaminants, producers’ methods, etc.

  • Irina

    Reply Reply July 3, 2015

    Absolutely great article, especially the part about so-called specialist and diet advisers from media. Thank you very much Alex to you and to your fantastic team!

  • sam

    Reply Reply July 3, 2015

    Hi Alex,
    Your research and disclosure on health nutrition misinformation that is increasingly transmitted via email are much appreciated. More so to the informed that have done and graduated from courses such as offered by the Academy. The question I want to trigger here is. What do we do as informed individuals and professionals to weed out this proliferation of misinformation? How does one in social setting , say a party stop even this conversation of misinformation being proliferated? Indeed health and nutrition are topics that are constantly being “addressed” in almost every social setting.

    • Wendy

      Reply Reply October 18, 2016

      Hi Sam, I’m not a researcher or blogger (yet!), simply a lifelong student. I have encountered the problem you mention in social settings and on social media, in reference to misinformation proliferation. It is a fine line to maintain a sense of decorum with certain individuals in this situation. When addressing a reasonable person, one may simply point out there are existing studies with reproducible results which counter the misinformation. With an uninformed zealot, especially those with a stubborn streak, I find it often best to google the subject matter on my smartphone and share the link to a peer-reviewed paper when available. .edu sites are my second line of defense. Hope this helps you avoid some of those nasty, fruitless debates.

  • Michelle

    Reply Reply July 4, 2015

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for a great article. So very true. Plus it is not only true for the health sciences. We should be fact checking most things on the internet and even news. It might be a lot of work, but we can’t always rely on others to give us the unbiased information.

  • Wendy A. Myers

    Reply Reply July 4, 2015

    What a brilliant read. Love the humour and educational content!!

    I think that some of us grads of the health sciences academy are better equipped at detecting bad science but I am worried about un-trained individuals who follow bloggers’ wrong advice putting their health at risk.

    It’s a matter of having the right education, isn’t it. Free info is everywhere and confusing.

    Most people refuse to pay for quality information EVEN when they have the resources…. I am all in for investing in my personal education and that of my family. Health and quality education are our two most important assets ;)

    Anyway, these are my 2 cents.

    Thank you so much Alex and super team for all the good stuff!!!!!

  • Philip Watling

    Reply Reply July 5, 2015

    Two things always to remember. 1) If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a load of baloney! 2) So called miracle cures, get-rich-quick schemes or amazing weight lose programs… If they were valid why is the world not full of healthy rich thin people?

  • Faye

    Reply Reply July 5, 2015

    Great article, I can see how anybody can get confused with the information the Internet and bloggers feed us. It can be very contradicting and you don’t know what to believe fro one day to the next.
    I recently read Dr Mercola’s book ‘effortless healing’ which was an interesting read but I did feel scared reading it so haven’t been onto his website. I’m glad I read this, i won’t waste more time with Mercola and will be reviewing who I follow right away!

  • Crystal Fares

    Reply Reply July 7, 2015

    Great article, and super important. I haven’t read the gluten, a psychological nocebo article yet but, I certainly plan to. I don’t have Celiac but, I do break out in eczema when I eat gluten containing grains. I have done the elimination diet multiple times to ensure that this was in fact the culprit. I have read both sides of the data, I am also a firm believer in listening to one’s own body as what may be good for one may not bee good for another, something you teach in your Nutritional Therapy course. I also recognize that scientific studies require funding, need to show some sort of economic profitability outcome (how can this study lead us to reduce economic loss or increase economic gain?), and the issue of the study has to be pressing enough to warrant the funding (only about 1% of the population is celiac so why study gluten?). That being said, just because there is no science, yet, doesn’t mean there won’t be. If gluten is a psychological nocebo, shouldn’t I have the power to mindfully eliminate my eczema just by believing that the data is false and that I am okay with gluten? If our minds are powerful enough to cure or kill, maybe that’s what we need to spend money researching. ;-)

    • Alex Salcedo

      Reply Reply July 7, 2015

      Crystal, this is of topic but in response to your point regarding the research about studying placebo/nocebo, there is a program about it. You can find more information on Dr Joe Dispenza.
      Because it is not only food and vitamins, is your state of mind and how you cope with your personal situation that also helps your health.

  • Kaye

    Reply Reply July 7, 2015

    Caveat emptor. It’s not just blogs. My twitter feed has promoted scams quite often. There is no such thing as miracle cure that no other scientists know about. Testimonials aren’t a substitute for verifiable science. For example there is no way to verfiy whether testimonials are made up or the people even exist. These organizations play on desperate people’s hopes. Dr. Mecola and Dr. Oz are two such entities. Popularity isn’t the same as being truthful. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

  • Beth

    Reply Reply July 14, 2015

    Thanks for the article, the more I read, the more skeptical I become. This all started when I asked my dermatologist how she felt about the huge influence the Environmental Working Group was having on sunscreen sales, etc. She said the biggest factor for protection was how much you applied, and how often, and said that EWG to her knowledge employed no dermatologists, and their studies were flawed. So, I checked out their Board of Directors. Oh, wow, eye opener! Campaigners, marketing specialists, attorneys! Now I always go straight to the Board list as well as the financial page to see what makes a particular website tick.

  • Dr Rachel

    Reply Reply October 3, 2015

    Thanks for raising awareness. This week I spotted a made up pseudo scientific logic by the institute for integrative nutrition blog / they wrote that whether you need to take omega 3 supplements or not depends on your ancestry but the linked study wasn’t about *supplements* at all ! appalling ..how research is distorted to gain believers and advance commercial interests is a disgrace. as I read the comments in here I can see that others also notice these things but it worries me that we are just a small minority.
    God bless !

  • Jason

    Reply Reply November 20, 2015

    Very few really understand exactly what the body needs to function at its best – one has to be very careful who you put your faith in.
    Media loves “shocking” articles to attract readers and at the end of the day, those who take them seriously, without seeking further clarification, are not smart.

  • Malc Campbell-Scott

    Reply Reply April 7, 2016

    Hi everyone,
    I only enrolled today, (07-04-16) so haven’t started my course yet. But the article in question really gave me confidence in the thorough way the “Science Academy” sifts through all material before allowing it to be shared in their studies. I feel I can look into things more wisely now!

    Thank you so much,

    Malc.

  • Philip Watling

    Reply Reply April 13, 2016

    If one looks hard enough – and one doesn’t have to look that hard – it is possible to find the cure for a certain disease according to one person is the cause according to another! If I came up with the most outlandish lie and sent it to a bunch of friends they may forward it to a bunch of friends who forward it to a bunch of friends until someone sends it back to me because I am one of their bunch of friends. Suddenly thousands of people believe the lie ‘because they read it on the internet’…

    I am ill and though doctors train for seven years, I won’t bother them: I shall look it up on the internet and believe what some spotty 14-year-old posted because he sounded authoritative! No, go and see a bloody doctor!

  • Malcolm Leyland

    Reply Reply April 21, 2016

    Thankyou for this great article.
    I’ve seen so many sites claim misinformation and you give a very simple way of sifting through the junk. Appreciate the time taken to put this together.

  • Malc Campbell-Scott

    Reply Reply April 22, 2016

    Thank you very much for this article.
    I was a vegan for many years. I am not a vegan now, but still do not consume any dairy products.
    I still follow a vegan forum, and the information people write is so misleading it is at times quite dangerous. I will give you one example: “New vegans do not have to worry about the vitamin B12, because our bodies store B12 for up to 4 years.”
    Thanks to the scientific information I am studying with the course I am doing, I will be able to answer some of these problems.
    Thank you for all I am learning with THSA.

  • Sharon Robson

    Reply Reply June 23, 2016

    Thank you for this article. As a psychology graduate and teacher, I am all too aware of the dangers of ‘bad science’. I haven’t read Ben Goldacre’s book yet but I often use his TED Talk on Bad Science to demonstrate to my students how findings can be misrepresented. I look forward to finding out more!

  • Philip Watling

    Reply Reply June 25, 2016

    The Internet is the worst place. Anyone can post anything on the web; it goes round the world and many take it as the truth – no proof needed. Heck, even if only 1% believe it that is several million people!

  • Elizabeth Onyema

    Reply Reply July 26, 2016

    With everything i have learnt soo far with the health sciences academy is any food made by man may have been altered. give me the plain raw coccoa and i will eat it,chocolate..naaa..its never been able to sit in well. I have never recommnded it to my clients as weel. We eat only nutrients ..un processed or little processed foods as much as possible. i cant be fooled by any crap i see on the internet anymore…

  • Philip Watling

    Reply Reply July 27, 2016

    Elizabeth, have you ever had raw cocoa? Munched on the actual bean? It is VERY bitter. I really like dark/bitter chocolate now – milk is far too sweet – but anything above 75% gets a bit unpalatable. I have some 95% dark chocolate, which should only ever be used for cooking!

    • Elizabeth Onyema

      Reply Reply August 21, 2016

      Hey Philip..I am not much of a chocolate fan…so,i have never had raw cocoa,but i am sure it doesnt taste good. i can have a cocoa drink though..that doesnt taste soo bad.

  • Philip Watling

    Reply Reply August 23, 2016

    For me it’s not so much the chocolate, as the milk… Milk chocolate is far too sweet for me since my life-changing accident. Dark (bitter) chocolate does not taste that bitter to me, though anything greater than about 72% is a bit too dark for me. Dark chocolate in the lower 70s is a delight though!

    Like fat, without sugar, raw cocoa is not nice at all, but mixed with sugar one gets biscuits, muffins, doughnuts, pretzels, cakes and of course chocolate!

  • Lawin

    Reply Reply October 5, 2016

    Hello,im glad to know more information and really its very nice to know .
    thanks Alex for this new things learn .

  • Omar

    Reply Reply October 19, 2016

    An amazing article. It makes sense. A lot of nutrition articles out there that are abstracted double or thrice. You can feel that pieces of information (or facts) was skimmed from different sources, but can’t tell. Further, you can find the same article “literally” but in a different organization on other sites as they share it but change its order, language, phrasing, etc. The trick/ experiment of the German journalists is really unbelievable and deeply funny. OMG, I can’t believe that; I am so astonished! You know something, just few lines starting reading your article I decided to throw out all the emails I have and try to format my mind for real healthy information. I open my eyes and ears wide for what you are going to say and share; though frankly I said to myself, why not them too!!?? I hope I can develop the sense to hunt false information, by your help and guidance of-course.
    Thanks for sharing this information with us.

  • Susan Fruhman

    Reply Reply October 23, 2016

    Thank you so much for putting this so succinctly – I have always felt research is a minefield and your clarity will help me be more rigorous when sifting through the endless information on the web. I will go forward with more confidence about what is credible work and what is worth quoting. As a Nutritional Therapist I feel it is really important for people in our profession to provide valuable information and educate the public about this relatively new and dynamic science. After all food is very powerful. Much appreciated.

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